A Tribute to From the Views of a 3rd Year Political Science Major
The 3 Main Root Causes of the September 11, 2001 Terror Attacks
From the View of a 3rd Year Political Science Major
This web page was built to publish a research paper wrote by a 3rd year political science student on the 3 main root causes of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States.


            On September 11th, 2001 at 8:45 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center’s north tower, ripping through the building’s skin and setting its upper floors ablaze.  The second plane United Airlines Flight 175 flew down through Manhattan, between the buildings, slamming into the south tower of the World Trade Center at 9:06 a.m.  At 9:40 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 hit the pentagon.  At 10:00 a.m., the collapse of the south tower trapped hundreds of rescue workers, in addition to thousands of workers in the building.  Twenty-nine minutes later, weakened by its imploded twin, the north tower collapsed, pouring more debris, while crushing buildings and rescue workers below.  The last plane United Flight 93, came crashing into a reclaimed section of an old coal strip mine at 10:06 a.m.   September 11th, 2001 was the bloodiest day on the American soil since the Civil War; the United States experienced a terrorist attack in two cities, New York City and Washington, DC, which resulted in thousands of casualties and billions of dollars in damage.[1]  For many Americans their lives will never be the same, our global village has changed forever.  We live, as we have since 1945, in an age of weapons of mass destruction-nuclear, chemical and biological.  During the cold war there was one ladder of escalation that led to oblivion.  Now there are many.  Now as then, escalation is “unthinkable”.[2] 

Immediately proceeding the  attacks of 9-11 the Bush administration is shocked, left wondering who orchestrated these horrible acts of war towards America and why.  As intelligence agencies scrambled to secure information about those involved in the attacks, hundreds of people were taken into custody and questioned.  Gradually, the links to bin Laden became sufficiently convincing for the Administration to designate bin laden as the prime suspect as the leader of the Al-Qaeda network.  On September 27th, President George W. Bush addressed a joint chamber of the House and Senate to pledge a war on terrorism, which he said would be a “lengthy campaign”, committed to “find, stop, and defeat every terrorist group of global research”.[3]  This is very ironic when you take into consideration that in much of the world the U.S. is regarded as the leading terrorist state, and was condemned by the World Court for “unlawful use of force”(international terrorism).[4]  The Bush administration clearly sees this as an opportunity to expand its U.S. troops over the rest of the world to maintain global dominance. 

As the story unfolds, questions started to get answered pertaining to who Osama Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network are, and what their reasons were behind these gruesome attacks.  Bin Laden’s crimes can hardly come as a surprise to the CIA “Blowblack” from the radical Islamic forces organized, armed, and trained by the U.S., Egypt, France, Pakistan, and others began almost at once, with the 1981 assassination of the President Sadat of Egypt, one of the most enthusiastic of the creators of the forces assembled to fight a holy war against the Russians.[5]  It is evident that there is a high level of dedication from bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network because of the years of preparation involved.  Some of the individuals who carried out the September 11th, 2001 attacks had come to the United States years in advance, slowly planning each stage of the operation.  This is where we need to distinguish between religious crusaders and modern terrorists; religious crusaders believe in a higher power, their paradise is in the afterlife.[6]  Terrorists do not live by enthusiasm alone; they need a great deal of money.  The preparation for major operations is highly expensive.[7]  Bin Laden has proven that there is not a cost to expensive for his declared war on America.  There has always been controversy over why the United States was attacked.  The Bush Administration clearly states that this war on terrorism is defending our freedom and democracy, in which the Muslim world does not believe in.  In no way should have those attacks on America came as a surprise, especially to the Bush Administration.

 It is a need of any terrorist group to achieve publicity so that their message and cause can be broadcasted to the world.[8]  There has been many times where bin laden clearly started attacks against the United States.  Osama bin Laden publicly declared war on the United States on 2nd of  September 1996; for good measure, he did so again on the 23rd of February 1998.  Since 1996 bin Laden has repeatedly warned the Americans again, always in public-that he would incrementally increase the lethality of his attacks on the U.S. interests.[9]  The U.S. support for Israel occupation forces, the U.S. foreign policy and sanctions on Iraq, and the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia are three main root causes of the September 11th attacks on the United States.  This veiw is highly shared by many academic scholars and Osama bin Laden himself.

            The U.S. support for Israel occupation forces has created enormous resentment throughout the Middle East leaving this as one of the root causes of the September 11th, 2001 terror attacks.  No relationship is more controversial or complex than that between the Islamic and the Jewish Worlds, above all because of what has occurred since the mass migration of Jews to Israel in the late nineteenth century and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.[10]  The vast majority of Middle Eastern states and their people have acknowledged that Israel will continue to exist as the part of the region as an independent Jewish state.  However, there is enormous resentment at ongoing U.S. diplomatic, financial and military support for Israeli occupation forces and their policies.  For over two decades, the international consensus for peace in the Middle East involved the withdrawal of Israeli forces to within internationally recognized boundaries in return for security guarantees form Israel’s neighbors; the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza and some special status for a shared Jerusalem.  The paramount objective of Palestinian terrorists has been expressed in many public statements: namely, the establishment of a Palestinian homeland.[11]  Over the past 30 years, the Palestine Liberation Organization, under the leadership of Yasis Arafat, has evolved from frequent acts of terrorism and the open call for Israel’s destruction to supporting the international consensus for a two-state solution.  Most Arab states have made a similar evolution toward favoring just such a peace settlement.

However, the U.S. has traditionally rejected the international consensus and currently takes a position more closely resembling that of Israel’s right wing government: supporting a Jerusalem under largely Israeli sovereignty, encouraging only partial withdrawal from the occupied territories, allowing for the confiscation of Palestinian land and the construction of Jewish-only settlements and rejecting and independent state Palestine outside of Israeli structures.  The interpretation of autonomy by Israel and the United States has thus far led to only limited Palestinian control of a bare one-fourth of the West Bank in a patchwork arrangement that more resembles American Indian reservations. 

The U.S. has repeatedly blamed the Palestinians for the violence of the past year, even though Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other reputable human rights group have noted that the bulk of the violence has came form Israeli occupation forces and settlers.  Throughout the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the U.S. has insisted on the two parties working out a peace agreement among themselves, even though there has always been a grass of symmetry in power between the Palestinians and their Israeli occupiers.  The U.S. has blamed the Palestinians for not compromising further, even though they already ceded 78 percent of historic Palestine to the Israelis in the Oslo Accords: the Palestinians now simply demand that the Israelis withdraw their troops and colonists only from lands seized in the 1967, which Israel is required to do under international law.  The U.S. - backed peace proposal by former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak at the 200 talks at Camp David would have allowed Israel to annex large swaths of land in the West Bank, control of most of Arab East Jerusalem and its environs, and maintain most of the illegal settlements in a pattern that would have divided the West Bank into non-contiguous cantons, and deny Palestinian refugees the right of return.[12]

 Israel represents only one-one thousandth of the world’s population and has the 16th highest per capita income in the world, and it receives nearly 40 percent of all U.S. foreign aid.[13]  There is know doubt that Israel needs foreign aid, but these percentages are suggesting unfair treatment to other countries in the Middle East who need foreign aid just as much as Israel or more.  Official U.S. governments in recent years, however, appear to be crafted more from recognition of how Israel supports American strategic interests in the Middle East and beyond.  Over the past 30 years, the U.S. has used its veto power to protect its ally Israel from censure more than all other members of the Security Council combined.  In addition, the U.S. has launched a vigorous campaign to rescind all previous UN resolutions critical of Israel, even though many of the issues addressed in these resolutions are human rights violations, illegal settlements, expulsion of dissidents, development of nuclear weapons, the status of Jerusalem, and ongoing military occupation.  The United States is in direct violation of the UN Security Council resolution 465, which “calls upon all states not to provide Israel with any assistance to be used specifically in connection with settlements in the occupied territories.[14]  For the Middle East and for the rest of the world’s benefits it would be wise for the future to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine.  The Arab world collectively regarded this as a violation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1944 promise to King Abdelazziz ibn Saud not to change the status of British-mandated Palestine without consulting the Arabs first.  Now this state has insisted on maintaining for two generations military occupation of another people’s territory, it is out of line with most of the world community, but yet seems to find support only from the United States.[15] 

Bin Laden has railed against the reality that the “Al-Aqsa Mosque remains the prisoner of the Christian-Jewish Alliance”; decried “Zionist terrorism in Palestine, Lebanon, and elsewhere”; condemned “the state of the Jews that has a policy to destroy the future of the Palestinian children”; and anguished over the fact that “Jews are wreaking corruption in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the site of the Prophet’s ascension to heaven.[16]  Bin Laden shares a view of Israel that Professor Immanuel Wallerstein says is common among Islamists.  Israel, Wallerstein has Explained, “The Middle East is regarded as primarily an outpost of the West, a settler sate akin to the Crusader states of the Middle Ages” and, for bin Laden and his ilk “ the recipe for resolution is the historical one: evict the crusaders and their states whither”.  Although bin Laden believes the “Jewish Lobby” is powerful in America and at times can “pull the ropes of politics in the United States” in the direction of “weakening Muslim peoples and governments,” he is confident that U.S. backing alone permits Israel’s survival.  Bin Laden would certainly concur with the late-1999 claim by Ammar’s Al-sabil that “Jews would not have dared to Judaize and unify Jerusalem under the ‘Israeli’ flag were it not for the U.S. support and encouragement.”  For Bin Laden, then, the key to destroying Israel, as it is for destroying the Al-Sauds, Mubarak, and others, is to defeat the United States.[17]  It is obvious through these findings why Bin Laden is anguished  with the United States for supporting Israel; bin Laden sees this as an attack on Muslims and there holy sites. 

Secondly, it is evident that the U.S. foreign policy and sanctions on Iraq is another root cause of the September 11th, 2001 attacks.  On August 6th, 1990, the United Nations Security Council imposed economic sanctions on Iraq in response to its invasion of Kuwait four days earlier.  Under these sanctions, all imports into Iraq were prohibited, unless the Security Council permitted exceptions.  A spokesman from the U.S. state Department later referred to these sanctions as “the toughest, most comprehensive sanctions in history.”  Similarly, a select Committee of the UK House of Commons said that the Iraqi sanctions regime “is unprecedented in terms of long evity and its comprehensive nature.  Since 1990, there has been a severe deterioration in the standards of living of the vast majority of the inhabitants of Iraq.  These problems have been detailed most clearly in two reports of the highest integrity, written in 1999. 

The Security Council set up a “Humanitarian Panel to investigate the effects of sanctions.  The Panel report came out on March 30th, 1999.  It found out that “ In marked contrast to the prevailing situation prior to the events of 1990-91, the infant mortality rates in Iraq today are among the highest in the world, low infant birth weight affects at least 23 percent of all births.  Chronic malnutrition affects every fourth child under five years of age, and only 41 percent of the population has regular access to clean water.  The UNDP calculates that it would take 7 billion US dollars to rehabilitate the power sector country-wide to its 1990 capacity.[18]  The second report was produced by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) in August 1999.  This  surveys indicates that since 1991 the child and maternal morality in Iraq were heavily-populated in southern and central parts of the country, and children under five are dying at more than twice the rate they were ten years ago.  UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said the findings reveal an ongoing humanitarian emergency.[19]  It is obvious after reading these reports that the sanctions on Iraq have caused great suffering for the Iraqi people, especially the children who were among those mostly affected.  UNICEF explained that a contributing factor to malnutrition in Iraq is the “breaking down of key Iraqi infrastructure such as power grids and water distribution networks as a result of two major wars and over a decade of comprehensive international sanctions.”  Tackling the humanitarian problems in Iraq requires rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure, but the foreign investment which would allow this is not permitted under sanctions.[20]  The Iraq sanctions do not effectively target or affect the political or military power, but they do affect the weakest, the poorest, and most of all the innocent children of Iraq. 

The U.S. polices have devastated the civilian society of Iraq, while strengthening Saddam Hussein.  This statement comes from the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright over national TV when she was asked about the estimates of a half million deaths of Iraqi children as a result of the sanctions regime.  She recognized that such consequences were a “hard choice” for her administration, but said “we think the price is worth it”.[21]  At what price is it at all worth half a million deaths of Iraqi children, can there actually be such a price?  Bin Laden portrays Americans and their allies as inhuman creatures that thirst for Muslim blood, delight ignore, and aim to annihilate the Islamic world.  This is particularly true when he cites the U.S.-orchestrated UN economic sanctions on Iraq, attributing to the sanctions casualties far greater than those caused by the atomic attacks.  In reviewing these U.S. actions, bin Laden has focused almost obsessively on the deaths of Muslim children.[22]  Again and again bin Laden clearly states what he sees as an attack on Muslims by the U.S., once again causing them pain and destruction to their civilization. 

Finally, the last and perhaps the most significant root cause of September 11th, 2001 is the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia.  The most extreme Islamic fundamentalist state, apart from the Taliban, is Saudi Arabia.  In the 1980s the U.S. along with Pakistani intelligence, recruited, armed, and trained the most extreme Islamic fundamentalists they could find to cause maximal harm to the Soviets in Afghanistan.  As Simon Jenkins observes in the London Times, those efforts “destroyed a moderate regime and created a fanatical one, from groups recklessly financed by the Americans.”[23]  By 1989, they had succeeded in their Holy War in Afghanistan.  As soon as the U.S. established a permanent military presence in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden and the rest announced that from their point of view, that was comparable to the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and they turned their guns on the Americans, as had already happened in 1983 when the U.S had military forces in Lebanon.[24] 

The United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead though which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples.  The best proof of this is Americans’ continuing aggression against the Iraqi people using the Peninsula as a staging post, even though all its rulers are against their territories being used to that end, but they are helpless.[25]  For bin Laden, the Saudi regime has been the first among equals in this regard, having let the U.S. troops into the Kingdom and by having previously given to the Yemeni communists and PlO Chief Yasir Arafat, both of whom, bin Laden has said, “are fighting against Muslims.”  By opening the Arabian Peninsula to the Crusaders, the regime has violated the Prophet’s will to his nation before his death: Move the atheists out of the Arabian Peninsula. He also said, “If I live, I will move the Jews and the Christians out of the Arabian Peninsula”.  In addition, bin Laden has argued that these governments have betrayed the Ummah –the worldwide community of Islamic believers-not only by permitting infidels into the holy land of Saudi Arabia, but also by gradually surrendering their sovereignty to them and allowing them to plunder the nation’s energy resources.[26] 

Bin Laden has also argued that the Saudi regime is squandering the Muslim world’s energy resources by selling them at prices set by political considerations, not my market forces.  Bin Laden has characterized Saudi oil policy as Islam’s “economic hemorrhage,” and has said that when Islamists take power in the kingdom, they will still sell oil to non-Muslim consumers, but at “the price of the market according to supply and demand.  The results of Riyadh’s oil policy, in tandem with the al-Sauds’ excessive defense expenditures are, according to bin Laden, increasing poverty, ill health, and illiteracy in Saudi Arabia.  He based his belief that Saudi energy resources are-like Peninsula’s holy places-held in trust for the benefit of the Ummah.  He also clearly states that the American administrations” maintain a policy to control Arab oil prices so that the Western economies would flourish, while the Arab economies crumbled.[27] 

Bin Laden showed great despair with U.S troops in Saudi Arabia from the Afgan war and later revealed an even tragic event with the “Operation Desert Storm”.  This operation was to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991.  When Saddam’s forces invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Osama bin Laden expressed shock at Saudi king Fahd’s decision, not only to invite the Americans to defend his Kingdom but to agree to finance the Americans’ defense efforts.  Prince Turki, then still on excellent terms with bin Laden, reassured him that Americans would not be stationed near the Muslim holy places, and that they would leave Saudi Arabia once Saddam Hussein had been defeated.  When in 1991 the U.S. expeditionary force of over 400,000 departed but left several thousand permanently- stationed troops in the kingdom.[28]  Bin Laden’s reaction to the arrival of U.S. troops was clear and frank. “ The American government”, he said, “has made the greatest mistake in entering a peninsula that no religion from among the non- Muslim states has entered for 14 centuries….Never has Islam suffered a greater disaster than this invasion.”  He made it clear that he didn’t want U.S. troops in this holy land; he saw this as an attack on Islam.  With U.S. troops on the ground, bin Laden “regarded the country from that moment as occupied”, claiming “our country has become an American colony”.[29]  Once again, there are clearly stated facts as to reasons behind bin Laden’s terrorists attack on the United States. 

The U.S. support of Israel occupation forces, the U.S. policy, and sanctions on Iraq, and the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia all are traced back to the root causes of the September 11th, 2001 attack on the United States of America.  As bin Laden stated, the U.S. is causing an inequality in the Middle East towards Muslims in Palestine by supporting an unlawful crime, Israel has taken over terroritory that isn’t theirs to take.  The U.S. is in violation of the Security Council with regards to this matter by providing assistance to Israel, when it is causing great suffering for Muslims in Palestine.  The U.S. also supplies Israel with 40 percent of its foreign aid, when it is evident that there are other countries that would need it just as much or more.  This conflict between Islam and the Jews needs to be settled or there is a dark future in store for all countries.  The U.S. sanctions on Iraq have lead to gruesome amounts of deaths throughout a decade or more, mainly affecting the children.  We saw a glimpse of how much the U.S. cares with the remark from Madeleine Albright, and then we are left wondering where people in the Middle East get the idea that Americans are cruel and inhuman people.  The United States never listened to the studies done by Unicef, or other humanitarian groups involved with the UN, then again, the U.S. has never listened to the United Nations so I guess the administration figures why should it start now.  Religion is an important aspect of the Middle East, it is of the highest anywhere else in the world, and since Islamic people like bin laden believe in a paradise after life, their actions against enemies can be seen with the highest levels of intensity.  The U.S. troops are occupying the holiest spots in the world to the Muslims; they see this as an attack on Islam.  They stated clearly that they want the U.S. troops evacuated from Saudi Arabia.  This leads back to the US and their dominance of our global village. 

It is these factors that lead to September 11th, 2001 attacks, and the US has been told time and again, but they still are supporting a war on terrorism that has nothing to do with the root causes of those attacks.  It is this same very terrorism that the Islam people believe is being done to them.  There doesn’t seem to be a solution to this war, not until the bush administration looks at the root causes as for what they are, it’s not about our freedom and democracy.  Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom”, Bush said as fighter jets circled over the Capitol.  “Our grief has turned to anger and anger to resolution.  Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.[30]  I fear for the fate of the United States because the Bush administration is still talking about freedom when it is evident that those attacks have nothing to do with democracy and freedom.  Listen to the words of bin laden, look at the poverty and the anger against the United States for what its military troops do to people all over the world, whether it is directly or indirectly.  Since the western world does not share the same beliefs as much of the Muslims world, it does not give them the right to look past those beliefs, for in those beliefs coincided with history will reveal root causes.  It is time to stop ignoring the root causes and making them out to be something there not.  Ignoring them will lead to only more anger, and anger will eventually lead to more terrorist attacks on American soil.      


[1] Cindy C. Combs, Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century, 3rd ed. (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2003), pp. 179-181

[2] Katrina V. Heuvel, A Just Response: The Nation on Terrorism, Democracy, and September 11, 2001 (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2002), pp. 7

[3] Combs, Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century, pp. 182.

[4] Noam Chomsky, 9-11 (Sweden: Aftonbladet, 2002), pp. 23.

[5] Ibid., pp. 61.

[6] Combs, Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century, pp. 56

[7] Walter Laqueur, Terrorism (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1977), pp. 86

[8] Eric Morris and Allan Hoe, Terrorism: Threat and Response (New York: St. Martin’s Press, Inc., 1988), pp. 106

[9] Anonymous, Through our Enemies’ Eyes (Virginia: Brassey’s Inc., 2002), pp. x

[10] Fred Halliday, Two Hours that Shook the World (London: Saqi Books, 2002), pp. 113

[11] Robert H. Kupperman and Darrell M. Trent, Terrorism (New York: Hoover Institution Publication, 1979), pp. 162

[12] Zunes, Stephen, “10 Things to Know about U.S. Policy in the Middle East”.  October 26th, 2001<http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=11592>

[13] Zunes, Stephen, “10 Things to Know about U.S. Policy in the Middle East”. October 26th, 2001<http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=11592>

[14] Zunes, Stephen, “10 Things to know about U.S. Policy in the Middle East”. October 26th, 2001<http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=11592>

[15] John K. Cooley, Unholy Wars , 3rd ed. (London: Pluto Press, 2002), pp. 231

[16] Anonymous, Through our Enemies’ Eyes, pp. 232

[17] Ibid., pp. 233.

[18] Mohamed M. Ali and Shah H. Iqbal “Sanctions and Childhood Mortality in Iraq”.  May 27th, 2000<www.casi.org.uk/info/research.html

[19] Mohamed M. Ali and Shah H. Iqbal, “Iraq’s Children”.  May 27th, 2000<www.casi.org.uk/info/research.html>

[20] Mohamed M. Ali and Shah H. Iqbal “Sanctions”, February, 2002<www.casi.org.uk/guide/blame.html>

[21] Noam Chomsky, 9-11 (Sweden: Aftonbladet, 2002), pp. 72.

[22] Anonymous, Through our Enemies’ Eyes, pp. 47.

[23] Noam Chomsky, 9-11 (Sweden: Aftonbladet, 2002), pp. 79

[24] Ibid., pp. 83

[25] Halliday, Two Hours that Shook the World, pp. 218

[26] Anonymous, Through our Enemies’ Eyes, pp. 50

[27] Ibid., pp. 51

[28] Cooley, Unholy Wars, pp. 207

[29] Anonymous, Through our Enemies’ Eyes, pp. 114-115

[30] Bob Woodward, Bush at War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002), pp. 108